Category Archives: Gardening

For many of us, the garden is a relaxing place where we can go to get a little peace and quiet. However… there is such thing as a garden being too quiet.

 

The truth is that a generic garden design, while it may provide classic comforts, can also make the appeal of a yard wear off really quickly. On the other hand, a yard that excites and invites has the power to lure you outdoors to actually enjoy the space more often.

 

That’s why I believe that a yard is a place to play with color and design, to create a bold and irresistible space. Here are 5 easy ideas that will amp up your garden design:

 

High-contrast mulch

 

The difference between a polished landscape and a slapdash affair is often the mulch. With mulch, you can create an amazing contrasting color on the ground, which sets off your foliage to great advantage. Some of the most popular mulches are a mild brown so that they don’t change the look of the yard much. However, choosing a dark brown/black or a vivid reddish color can give your yard more sense of dimension and provide the perfect frame to offset a statement plant that you’ve thoughtfully incorporated into your yard.

 

As an added bonus, using mulch in your yard has numerous significant benefits, offering more nutrition and protection for delicate plants.garden design

 

A statement wall

 

Statement walls are one of the most recent trends in garden design. While there are many ways to decorate your statement wall, the easiest way to make it a showpiece is to cover it with a strong, eye-catching color. After that, you can place potted plants in front of it, hang plants in sconces on it, or add some traditional decorative elements like ironwork or mirrors.

 

Statement walls make a great anchor for your outdoor living space. Simply putting a bench or some outdoor chairs in front of it will make it the main stage of your yard.

 

If an entire wall full of a bold color feels like too much for you, consider using bright colors on yard accessories instead. A bench, some pots, a fountain, or even pavers can have surprise pops of color that will draw the eye. You might even choose to use a section of your fencing as something of a “statement wall” and hang plants on it or install elements below it to make it more decorative. See this article for more ideas.garden design

 

Arbors

 

I love so many things about arbors. For one thing, they give a really classic twist to a yard, hearkening back to days of Italian villas and the gentry taking a turn in the garden. They also offer natural shade. However, the best thing about them design-wise is that they allow you to bring color up above the ground level. Many of our flowers populate the ground, but arbors allow us to put entrancing splashes of red, purple, and yellow up to eye level. Try planting roses or wisteria at the base of your arbor and give the flowers time to climb. If you want less aggressive vines, you might also try out sweet pea or morning glory.garden design

 

Empty space

 

One of the most important elements of design is white space. This means that not every corner has to be full of something. Instead, judicial use of blank spaces makes the words or pictures that you do have more impactful. The same principle can apply for your yard. Not every single space has to be occupied. However, consider the fact that your “blank space” in a yard isn’t going to be blank: it will instead have neutral elements, like mulch, grass, or paving. Use these spaces to best effect by subduing them in response to other features nearby, or including subtle elements that give more texture and contrast to the overall impression.

 

Unique showpiece plants

 

There are some plants that might be considered the divas of the plantae kingdom. They bring their own drama; all you have to do is give them a chance to shine. Here are some ideas:

 

  • Allium: These tall purple globe flowers look like something straight out of Dr. Seuss.
  • Sunflowers: Certain species of sunflowers grow at a ridiculous rate, and dominate a space with their generous yellow blossoms.
  • Firework pennisetum: This decorative grass looks very much like other decorative grasses… except that it’s red! It looks just like its namesake, bursting to life in otherwise dull corners of your yard.
  • Spider mums: These expansive flowers will put the average petunia to shame, bringing interesting shapes and colors to any flower bed where you decide to include them.
  • Bird of Paradise: These plants do best in warm climes, but if you can manage to grow one in your zone, you’ll soon learn where the name comes from.
  • Guest post by: Christine H.

 

Have you noticed fewer bees in your garden recently? If so, then you’re not the only one. Bee populations of pretty much all kinds are in decline all over the world, and this could spell disaster for the long term health of our planet. This might sound a bit drastic, but when you consider just how important bees are to the pollination of so many plants, trees, fruits and vegetables, it could become an incredibly serious issue.

 

So what is it that’s causing our bees so much hassle? There are a few things really. Habitat destruction, disease and parasites (like the varroa mite) are three common problems, but one of the main causes of declining bee populations has been shown to be a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short.

 

Neonics are used to treat pests on crops, plants, turf, etc, but they’re also incredibly harmful to bees. The pesticides (of which there are several types) affect every part of the plant, including pollen and nectar, so when a bee comes along to visit, it also becomes effected.

 

And these neonics do not agree with bees at all. They have a dramatic effect on their homing ability, breeding, memory, foraging skills, and more, eventually leading to their death. Some types of neonics have been banned in parts of Europe and the UK, but there are still some types being used, and many countries around the world have no restrictions on them at all.

 

The following infographic from Sun Leisure delves a bit deeper into the issue of neonics, detailing what and why they’re used, how they affect bees, and what some of the alternatives might be. It also looks at just how important bees are to us and the huge effect their extinction would have on the world.

Close to where I live in Vermont is a 40-acre sanctuary, called Eshqua Bog, jointly owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and the New England Wild Flower Society.lady's slippers The New England Wild Flower society declared Eshqua Blog, “a treasure of Vermont flora.” A place with “exceptional aesthetic, educational and scientific value.” This bog has hundred’s of Showy Lady’s Slippers that bloom in the spring.lady's slippers

 

There is a wooden boardwalk that meanders through the bog, which is fully accessible for people of all ages and abilities. The boardwalk allows people to take a closer look at the wonderful plant life in the bog while protecting the bog from trampling.lady's slippers

 

The wild orchids are merely the most acclaimed wildflowers of this rich wetland. The bog and surrounding wetlands host the annual blooming of marsh marigolds, painted trillium, great white trillium, bloodroot, starflower, white turtlehead, blue-bead lily, trout lily, mayflower, blue cohosh and many other spectacular and subtle flowers.

 

The Bog is actually a fen and was protected to permanently preserve the diverse community of wetland plants like Labrador tea, cotton grass and pitcher plants. Fens are less acidic and fed by groundwater that carries important plant nutrients like calcium and magnesium from the surrounding bedrock. True bogs are typically dominated by sphagnum mosses while fens are characterized by an abundance of sedges and non-sphagnum mosses.

 

There are a number of orchids growing in the bog including the white bog orchis, green bog orchis, and yellow lady’s slippers.lady's slippers

 

In addition, hundreds of showy lady’s slippers bloom in early summer.lady's slippers

 

I have been to this bog several times but never have I seen so many Showy Lady Slippers in bloom. They were just magnificent. Known by naturalists for more than a century Eshqua Bog attracts wildflower lovers from around the nation.lady's slippers

 

If you are ever in the Woodstock, Vermont area take the time to explore this wonderful natural area. The paths are well marked and there is a small parking lot. You can explore the bog and there are also paths to enjoy the surrounding forest. If you have never seen Lady’s Slippers in the wild you are in for an amazing treat.lady's slippers

As we continue to pack up our house in preparation for an eventual move I look at my box of seeds and wonder how long will seeds last? Should I pack them up and take them with me? Like most home gardeners I’m frugal and I hate to throw anything away, especially leftover garden seeds from one year to the next.How Long Will Seeds Last

 

For long term storage seeds should be kept in the freezer. However that is not an option when planning a move across the country. So I will keep my seeds dry and in a dark place until they are ready to be planted again. Seeds should be stored with some type of desiccant in a sealed jar. You can actually use rice as a desiccant.

 

But how long do seeds last? Some types of seeds are naturally more short lived than others. Did you know that some seeds have a higher oil content than others and that these are the seeds with the shortest shelf life. Parsnips, spinach, lettuce and onion seeds have the shortest seed life.how long will seeds last

 

Beans, beets, leeks, parsley, peppers, and Swiss chard seeds will usually be good for up to two years.how long will seeds last

 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, and tomatoes should last for three years.how long will seeds last

 

Turnips and flower seeds are generally good for four years.how long will seeds last

 

If you keep your seeds dry and cool you may find they will last longer then the time periods I mentioned. I have heard of seed savers who have kept seeds for years and had success growing them.

 

Now that I know how long seeds will last I can now sort through my seeds and check the dates on the envelopes and decide which seeds I will be taking with us. Another thing that I will have to consider is will the seeds grow in the Pacific Northwest? I believe most of my seeds will do fine. Vermont has a very short growing season and although the PNW may have more rain and less sun I should still be able to have a vegetable garden. Any of my readers familiar with growing vegetables in the PNW?planning your vegetable garden

It has been a wet spring here in Vermont. It seemed like we had many more rainy days in May than sunny days. The benefit of so much rain is that the June flowers are bursting forth in bloom. June FlowersEven as you walk down the road the sides of the road have flowers everywhere you look. Nothing like the beauty of June flowers.June Flowers

 

My gardens are just beginning to fill out. With the house on the market we’re trying to stay on top of the weeds so that the house has a beautiful first impression as you drive in the driveway or walk around the outside. Do you see the Columbine peaking from behind the Hosta?June Flowers

 

The large pig pot which is usually full of herbs has recently been planted with flowers and annuals. It adds a nice bit of color as you approach the house.June Flowers

 

With the Lilac blooms come the Swallowtails. I have two varieties of Lilac, one is an early blooming Lilac while the other is late blooming. As a result we enjoy Lilac blooms from Memorial Day weekend well into June. When I see the Swallowtails on the lilac it is a definite sign of spring!June Flowers

 

Lupine are another sign of spring. They re-seed and come up everywhere. I have some regulars plants in the gardens around the house and then others come up that have re-seeded from elsewhere. These Lupines are coming up among the blueberries. Nice addition I think. I’ll let them stay. Lupines are one of my favorite spring flowers.June Flowers

 

I’ve have only planted half of my raised beds this year. I may do a planting of beans or lettuce. In the meantime I have baby lettuce coming up from lettuce that went to seed last year!June Flowers

 

Looks like it’s going to be a good year for Strawberries too!June Flowers

 

It won’t be long before the gardens are in full bloom, but in the meantime I’m enjoying the June flowers!June Flowers

 

First Harvest – Rhubarb

 

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I am a lover of rhubarb and I have a lot of rhubarb! Here in Vermont rhubarb is the first harvest from the garden. Rhubarb seems to burst from the ground in a matter of days. At first it is just peaking through the dirt and the next minute it wants to flower! There is nothing like the first harvest to get your gardening season off to a good start.first harvest, rhubarb

 

One year I put an ad in the paper to see if anyone wanted to enjoy some of my abundance. I actually ended up bartering for bread! I may have to put an ad out this year, with the house on the market I am not doing any preserving of the harvest, so I really have an abundance of rhubarb!Rhubarb Plants, first harvest, rhubarb

 

I have already made a delicious Rhubarb Cake, which we enjoyed with company.first harvest

 

Over Memorial Day weekend we also enjoyed some Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake. I often use a special pan I have called a Mary Ann Cake Pan, which is a pan designed to bake light cake shells that hold anything from fresh fruit to rich custards. When the cake is baked it has an inverted well for spooning in lightly sweetened whipped cream or lemon curd and fresh fruit. Perfect for Rhubarb Strawberry shortcake.first harvest, Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake

 

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp will also be on the menu.first harvest, Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp, enjoy!

 

Even though it is only my husband and I at home I will also be making a rhubarb pie. Nothing says spring in Vermont like a rhubarb pie!

 

If I were doing some canning this year I would definitely be making some Rhubarbeque sauce. It is perfect on grilled pork or chicken.first harvest, canning, rhubarb, prudent pantry

 

I would also be canning some Apple Rhubarb Chutney.first harvest, chutney, prudent pantry

 

Rhubarb Jam would be another item filling my pantry shelves. I love this jam, it is equally good on chicken or on a piece of toast for breakfast!Rhubarb Jam, first harvest

 

A few years ago a friend shared one wonderful Rhubarb Buckle recipe. The ginger in this recipe gives this buckle a unique taste.

 

Can’t decide how to enjoy your first harvest? Rhubarb always freezes well. Just cut the stalks into small pieces. Place in a Ziploc bag or use your FoodSaver. And freeze. Couldn’t be easier!Rhubarb for the freezer, first harvest

 

Are you are rhubarb lover? How do you enjoy the first harvest?first harvest, rhubarb, victoria sauce

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